11 Ways to Improve Your Focus — and Boost Your Performance
A recent study using mice found that when their attention improved, so did their cognitive performance. The same is true for humans. In any endeavor, whether it’s to beat a world record in sports or become the CEO of a company, when people learn how to sharpen their focus, they become smarter, more productive, and higher performing.
Focus is one of the essential traits necessary for achieving ambitious goals. Here are 11 ways to improve yours.
Stop responding to “emergencies.”
Stop allowing yourself to be distracted by the unimportant. If you’re spending 80 percent of your time handling customer complaints about hold times, when will you find time to identify the problem and integrate a new scheduling system? Keep your attention on tasks that specifically contribute to solving the problem. Let fires burn themselves out in the meantime.
Stop focusing on big problems.
The worst way to accomplish a big goal you’ve set is to focus on the problem itself. Instead, focus on the solution. Come up with three tasks to do each day that will get you closer to your goal. These are your “process goals.” Be relentless in your commitment to accomplish these three process goals each day. Don’t let anyone or anything keep you from completing them.
Be willing to disappoint.
When you’re focusing on getting your top three process goals done each day, you will occasionally disappoint colleagues, clients, and customers by not dropping everything to help them. That’s okay. Prioritizing your tasks doesn’t mean you’ll never help someone else out. It just means that you’ll get to it after you’ve made sure you have time for your most important tasks.
Walk toward unpleasant or stressful tasks.
The most important tasks each day are also typically the tasks we fear, dread, and avoid most. Tackling process goals daily won’t always produce immediate results. But being persistently focused on process goal completion will help you avoid unproductive slumps. On a daily basis, rally your energy and courage to tackle those daily goals that have the greatest influence on your performance and therefore success.
You have only so much self-control within you, so spend it on what is most important. Limit the temptations in your life so you don’t deplete your reserve of discipline before getting priorities done. If you have a weakness for “surfing the net,” then don’t go online. If you have difficulty saying, “I can’t talk now, I’m working” to friends who call during the day, let their calls go to voicemail. Or do your most trying tasks very early in the day, before distractions intrude.
Just as baseball players practice swinging with a weighted bat so that in a game batting feels easy, you can improve your discipline by pushing yourself to be more disciplined than usual. Choose one process goal to overachieve one time per week. If one of your process goals is to make 10 cold calls a day, then once a week do 15. If you choose Friday, the hardest day to stay disciplined, it will reinforce your ability to maintain discipline and focus the other weekdays.
Team up with a “mental” coach.
Many of us perform better when we know someone is watching us or we feel accountable to someone else. Yet a part of being a high performer requires that you watch, evaluate, and are accountable to yourself. So conjure up a coach in your mind. Think of someone who inspired you, challenged you, and served as a role model. When faced with a daunting task, ask yourself, “What would So-and-So do if she had two reports and only 24 hours to complete them?”
Control your “performance arousal.”
A good way to increase focus and hence performance success is learning how to moderate your performance arousal. That’s the feeling of being pumped up with potential energy and you’re super aware, ready to rumble, and psyched. On a 10-point scale, with 1 being half asleep, and 10 performing at 1,000 mph, you want to be at a number in between that feels more like the perfect symphony of calm, aggressive, and confident. The best way to control performance arousal is to be super prepared for the task that awaits you.
Maintaining focus is dependent on good health. Lack of sleep, depleted energy from overindulging the night before, poor nutrition, too much caffeine, and too little exercise are all factors that interfere with one’s ability to focus. If you have a big goal to achieve, “train” for it like a professional athlete. For optimal mental focus and performance, take a holistic approach to physical and mental health — sleep, rest, low stress, good diet, and vigorous exercise.
Drill, baby, drill.
Among teams of equal talent, winning and losing are determined in the preparation. Legendary NFL coach Vince Lombardi led his teams to greatness by drilling plays again and again and again. His power sweep (a simple play that relied on the perfect execution of the fundamentals of blocking and teamwork) dominated pro football for 10 years. Know every detail that goes into your process goals, and drill, baby, drill until they become second nature.
Do a mental workout every day.
Doing my 100-Second Mental Workout every day reinforces your goal, the process needed to accomplish it, and jumpstarts your motivation and focus. In my book, Executive Toughness, I explain this in detail. Briefly, it’s this: Step 1: take a deep centering breath to get calm and focused. Step 2: state who you are as if you’d already achieved your goal. Step 3: play a mental video of what your life is like as if you’d accomplished your goal. Step 4: repeat step 2. Step 5: Take another centering breath.
|Print article||This entry was posted by Jason Selk on April 15, 2012 at 6:26 pm, and is filed under Mental Toughness. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback from your own site.|